Reassessing the long chronology of the penannular brooch in Britain: exploring changing styles, use and meaning across a millennium
thesisposted on 01.10.2015, 14:50 by Anna Louise Booth
Penannular brooches are a simple form of dress fastener used in Britain from the late Iron Age, through to the Roman and Early Medieval periods. This thesis represents the first full study of their British development for fifty years. The catalogue of penannulars originally compiled by Elizabeth Fowler in the late 1950s has been more than doubled, allowing a thorough re-analysis of chronological variation and continuity in stylistic development, distribution, use and deposition. This has been carried out via broad analysis of the penannular database and two regional case studies looking at South-West England and Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, the two areas where penannulars were concentrated throughout their chronology. Many previous studies have focused only on the later penannular types, leading to an unbalanced approach dominated by the preoccupations of early medieval archaeology. This has created the perception that penannulars had a simple evolutionary development that contributed to the straightforward survival of a ‘Celtic’ culture in some regions during the Roman period and beyond. To counterbalance this, analysis here has particularly focused on the earlier end of the penannular chronology. As a result an alternative picture is presented, of a highly complex development influenced by Continental parallels, which stands in deep contrast to the simplistic sequences proposed in most previous studies. The ever increasing corpus of theoretical work on bodily adornment has also been drawn on, enabling a more nuanced approach that moves us away from the idea that appearance is just an external manifestation of a single, static form of identity and instead recognises that it plays a vital role in an active and continual process of forming and maintaining multiple, complex, overlapping and sometimes opposing identities.